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Elvis Presley has got me all shook up.
The Chronicle editorial board meets every Wednesday to discuss the issues of the week. One Wednesday a month, we meet at the old courthouse in Inverness so it’s convenient
for folks on the east side to meet with us.
Last week I walked into the old courthouse and there was a portrait of Elvis Presley on the wall, greeting me.
“Good morning,” I said to Elvis as I entered the building.
I did a double take because he appeared to wink at me.
Most readers will remember that Elvis spent a lot of time in Citrus County making the movie “Follow That Dream.” The courtroom scenes were shot in the very room the Chronicle
editorial board was sitting in.
Later in the meeting we had a visit from Paul Perregaux, a Citrus Hills resident who has qualified to run for the Citrus County Community Charitable Foundation board, the nonprofit
organization that will decide how the proceeds from the lease of Citrus Memorial Hospital will be used.
I asked Paul to give us some background on his life experience so we could let residents know why he was running for the office. The longtime banker pointed out that he had an
Army career before he worked for the financial industry in New England.
He noted one interesting point about his time in the military — he was once assigned a driver by the name of Elvis Presley.
And yes, it was that Elvis Presley.
“He was a very nice young man at the time,” said Paul.
Later that same day, back at the Chronicle office in Meadowcrest, we had a very extraordinary visit from April Royal, the widow of Phil Royal. Again, most every resident of this
community knows about the tragic death of Phil while he was participating in the annual Key Training Center fundraising run. Phil was considered the frontrunner to replace retiring
sheriff Jeff Dawsy in the November election.
April, her sister and some friends had come to the Chronicle to say thank you for the newspaper’s coverage of Phil’s tragic death and all of the memorials that followed.
In a truly class act, April insisted on bringing enough ice cream to treat the 100-plus employees at the newspaper.
April brought along baby daughter Brelyn, and she was the definite hit of the ice-cream party.
When the ice-cream party was just about over, I sat for a few minutes with April and we shared the very sad news of the day — Dorothy Jean Cole, the sister of Chet Cole at the
Key Training Center, had died.
Chet has dedicated his life to making the Key Training Center the incredible success it has been because of his personal experience with his sister Dorothy Jean. Back in the
1970s, developmentally disabled citizens were denied many basic human rights and simply warehoused by the state.
Chet knew 40 years ago there was a better way to provide services, and the institution of the Key Training Center grew from that passion.
And here is where Elvis comes full circle.
As we sat their talking, April Royal explained to me that Dorothy Jean’s absolute favorite musician was Elvis Presley. Her residence at the Key Center was adorned with photos and
paintings of Elvis.
In July of this year, April and Phil attended the Key Center’s annual auction. Phil had been on the Key Center board for 20 years and had a special relationship with Dorothy Jean
In fact, two years ago Phil wrote, “Dorothy Jean is the reason I run for the Key, and I am so blessed to have met her. ... Seeing the joy in Dorothy’s face inspires me to be more
appreciative of life and grateful for God’s blessings in my life.”
At the July charity event, what comes up for auction but a large velvet portrait of Elvis Presley? According to April, Phil took one look at Elvis and said he needed to purchase the
velvet masterpiece for Dorothy Jean.
“I don’t care what it costs,” Phil told April. “We need to buy Elvis.”
As you might guess, the Royals were the top bidders. Phil wanted to wait until after the Run for the Money to give the present to Dorothy, but fate got in the way.
Phil died during the run at a very young 47 years old. His family and our entire community have been rocked by the tragedy.
April Royal has been an incredibly strong woman during the aftermath of the tragic events. Just last week she saw the Elvis portrait at her home and decided she had to go visit
Dorothy Jean. So she loaded Brelyn and Elvis into the car and went to the Key.
She presented the Elvis portrait to Dorothy as a last gift from Phil. Dorothy was delighted to spend time holding Brelyn and she had a big smile on her face.
And now, just a few days after that visit, Dorothy Jean Cole has passed away.
The irony was almost too much to comprehend.
In a very strange way, the velvet King helped me better understand what courage looks like and how precious life really is.
|ELVIS IS IN THE BUILDING
September 29, 2016 - Citrus County Chronical / Elvis Express Radio